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Math Symbols: Greater Than, Less Than, and Equal

Today we will look at the symbols = > <, what they mean, when we can use them and some other curiosities.

Let’s start with the best known: the equal sign (=).
Did you know that we started using the equal sign more than 450 years ago?

The first to do so was the doctor and mathematician Robert Recorde, who explained that there are no two things that may be more equal than two parallel lines. So he began to use this symbol to represent equality:


Today we continue to use it to express values that are the same and it reads as “equals”.

For example:

7 = 7
4 + 5 = 9
a = a

What happens when we have two values that are not equal?

There are other symbols that we can use to indicate relationships between numbers: the inequality symbols!

The best-known symbols of inequality are “greater than” (>) and “less than” (<). With them, we can make comparisons.


The “greater than” and “less than” signs resemble the letter “v” rotated. This trick can help you to know which way it should be rotated:

The large opening always points to the greater value, and the smaller end, the tip, toward the smaller value. This makes it easy to remember.

Let’s look at some examples:

3 > 2

Three is greater than two, so the large opening of the symbol faces three and the little point faces the two.

12 < 15

Twelve is less than fifteen, so the small side faces the 12 and large opening faces the 15.

100 > 25

To which side does the large opening of the symbol face? To 100, because 100 is greater than 20.

In short …


If this post was helpful, share it with your friends! And if you want to practice using the symbols greater than, less than and equal to  amongst many other things like the least common multiple, subscribe to Smartick for a free trial.

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